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Staying in the UK for extended time! ??

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Ill be graduating college here in the US in May and am planning to travel over to the UK in September to stay with family for an extended period. I'm just trying to figure out if I need to apply for a general visitor visa. I will not be working or studying or anything, but I feel strange just going over there without any solid documentation. I am also trying to figure out how long I can stay for - I know that I am allowed to stay for 6 months but I know that the family I am visiting is considering coming to the US for Christmas and I may join them. Would I be able to return with them to the UK so soon after already having spent almost 4 months with them? I would really like to stay until June. Additionally, could I travel outside of the UK (say, France for example) during my stay with them? Whew! Lots to think about. Let me know if you can help!!

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